Defense Hired Doctors: Common in Personal Injury Law, But Lawyers Must Prepare Clients!
A victim’s rights post-accident can include everything from pursuing monetary (compensation) damages in civil court to the defendant facing probation or jail time in criminal court (in cases of wrongful death, shooting, and negligent security to name a few). The lengthy process of seeing a case through to the end (Discovery, depositions, mediations, trial, and more) often seems to take the biggest toll on a client who has already suffered so much. Being subjected to defense hired doctors may cause a victim to suffer from PTSD or mental anguish. That’s why this writeup will provide our readers with everything they need to know about reaching this point in their case, and why they need not fear a defense medical examination (“DME”).
When a victim becomes seriously injured in an accident caused by another person, it’s highly recommended they retain a Board Certified lawyer to represent their rights, should they choose to pursue litigation for the injuries they sustained. The lawyer must have trial experience, and have seen cases to verdict, in the event the case must go to trial.
Why is this necessary, one may ask? It’s because civil actions are where the insurance companies will use the aforementioned defense hired doctors to try to convince the court that victims aren’t injured, or haven’t suffered any pain, loss, or anguish from their accident. In some cases, the insurance company can’t deny the victim is injured, so they switch tactics and claim the injury was caused by an event unrelated to the accident!
This sneaky, unfair tactic was commonly used by cigarette manufacturers in their marketing and when they appeared in court their story was always the same: it wasn’t the cigarettes that caused the cancer, the victim was diagnosed with it due to something else. While cigarettes are still sold, and still proven to cause various forms of fatal lung cancer, times have changed, and we see attempts to advertise these harmful products less frequently. In some states, not at all.
Understanding the concept of defense hired doctors
An experienced Personal Injury lawyer for the injured will never let the insurance company’s lawyers take advantage of their client, bully the client, cause them unnecessary anguish, or try to hide the truth. The insurance company is expecting victims not to know left from right in these situations. Without a lawyer, this may very well happen. That’s why it’s important to be represented by a law firm that has successfully seen hundreds of cases to verdict. It’s important that the plaintiff’s lawyer always tell them the truth: they’re entitled to compensation, and the dollar amount that is paid out will be fair. Reminding the client their pain and suffering is real is something compassionate, ethical lawyers will do, despite the team known as the “defense hired doctors” may try to convince the judge and jury, and even the victim themselves.
So, who are these “defense hired doctors”? They’re exactly what they sound like, and lawyers must prepare the client to face them honestly and credibly. Often times, the defense will hire a physician to testify as to whether or not the plaintiff (accident victim) is actually injured. Furthermore, as if attempting to discredit a victim who has sustained life threatening injuries isn’t insulting enough, this physician will usually find that the victim is not injured at all! This doesn’t seem right, does it? That’s because the practice of employing defense hired doctors isn’t an ethical one, nor is it “fair and impartial”, a legal term regularly thrown around unfairly.
Caring and considerate aside; these doctors work for the defense
It’s easy for a victim to be blindsided when being cross-examined by a physician hired for the defense. This doctor may act caring, considerate, even ask the victim leading questions that seem to imply they care about their pain and suffering. An experienced lawyer will not let his or her client be fooled by this tactic! Plaintiffs should always be advised by their lawyers prior to any litigation (mediation, trial, arbitration) what they should be aware of, how to answer certain questions that may arise, and what not to say. This is just one skill that a personal injury lawyer needs to be leaps and bounds above their peers in in order to successfully obtain maximum compensation for their injured client.
When a victim is in pain after an accident, they may be experiencing exhaustion, stress, and mental anguish (PTSD, flashbacks from the accident) and just want the entire legal process to be over with quickly. Unless properly advised by their Personal Injury lawyer, they may not know how to answer questions correctly and although the defense acts in a manner that can be deemed unethical, they may still be able to get the case dismissed.
Without a Personal Injury lawyer who is ready and willing to take on the insurance companies and expose what they’re hiding from innocent, injured clients, victims are at-risk for obtaining less or no compensation when they rightfully deserved a large sum!
The defense hired doctors, medical examination are nothing to fear, if lawyer and client are well informed
A defense medical examination, or “DME”, is common practice in Personal Injury cases. The insurance company and/or the insurance company’s legal team(s) will want to know everything about the accident victim and the injuries they sustained. With a lawyer that informs their client beforehand of what the insurance company doesn’t want them to know, there is no reason to fear this kind of exam. It’s important for the plaintiff to adequately express the pain they’re in honestly, without exaggeration. Honesty is the “golden ticket” to winning a case. They should not cower in face of a defense hired doctors.
The insurance company’s goal is to bully the victim into going away
The insurance companies don’t play fair, but victims should always retain experienced, board certified legal representation to advise them of what to do when a situation arises that may be deemed unethical. A situation deemed unethical may be the oft-discussed Deny, Delay, Don’t Pay tactic or their team of lawyers trying to convince the victim their injuries were sustained elsewhere, and not by the defendant they represent.
Insurance companies feel they can be the schoolyard bully and take advantage of injured victims, in pain and suffering, adding insult to the mental anguish of becoming injured. Unfortunately, the fact is that unethical practices used routinely by an insurance company’s legal team are not as uncommon as they may seem. Personal Injury lawyers that represent injured clients see these practices in real time too often. In fact, it happens every day all around the U.S. while victims and their families are being forced to endure the emotional distress of the insurance companies’ greed, adding “insult to injury”.
Some quick tips for the defense medical examination
To conclude this writeup, let’s look at the universally dreaded defense medical examination. This examination is dreaded by victims because they go in expecting to feel attacked, belittled, and made to fear defense hired doctors due to being conditioned to think they will not be compensated for pain and suffering they know is real, and truly affecting their quality of life. That’s simply not true, and Personal Injury lawyers with years of litigation experience in these matters are working hard to dispel the myth that the insurance company can keep playing Big Bad.
Follow our helpful tips to make the DME process run just that much more smoothly:
Arrive on time: this is of utmost importance. If a client requires assistance, they may ask their lawyer if there is any way transportation can be arranged on their behalf. The lawyer has a team working for him or her that can arrange an Uber or Lyft, and depending on the law firm, the lawyer may allow the client to drive with them. All the client needs to do is ask, and the lawyer will work it out. A lawyer should be caring, compassionate, and understanding of the pain their client is in. A lawyer who leaves a client to fend for themselves when they ask a question or request assistance is a red flag to find another law firm. Experienced lawyers have seen it all, and know a lot of injured victims cannot drive and will require someone to take them to and from their legal and medical appointments in order for them to arrive on time.
Be prepared: this tip is obvious but cannot be stressed enough! Be as prepared as possible. Be prepared to share medical history, what happened directly before, during, and after the accident (if memory loss has occurred, it’s important to inform the lawyer of this beforehand), the pain being experienced, and any other information the lawyer has advised the client to be forthcoming with. A client should keep any information they were advised not to share to his or herself. There is a reason for this. Personal Injury lawyers have their clients best interest at heart, and want them to receive full compensation, so always heed their advice.
Using notes is acceptable: If writing things down helps a client remember, they may do so! If they cannot write due to their injury, they can have a family member or spouse write down anything they’ve been advised by their lawyer, so that they don’t forget on the day of the exam.
Be polite, don’t play defense: a victim may feel the defense is out to get them, and that’s true (the insurance companies employ lawyers and medical professionals to act aggressively on their behalf to avoid paying out more compensation than they deem absolutely necessary). Acting defensively or rudely toward anyone from the insurance company’s legal team (doctors, lawyers, expert witnesses) doesn’t prove a victim’s pain and suffering, and it may reflect poorly on the lawyer, too. Credibility and honesty are everything. Being fearful or stressed out after a serious accident is normal, but it’s important to remember that the legal process will move more smoothly and, in the injured party’s favor, if they remain calm and follow the advice of their experienced accident lawyer. They want what’s best for the client!